Honestly, I had a blast during this race! I wasn’t fresh, but I am sure most others weren’t either. I didn’t get much sleep as I stayed up a little late watching the Tour with a friend. Couple 3 hours of sleep with an intense 40 mile crit about 14 hours before this race, and yeah, saying I wasn’t race ready might be an understatement.
I was riding in the all-age group women’s expert race. There were several strong women who rode in the citizens’ race, and it would have been interesting to see how I stacked up in a field including those ladies. But like any race, you can only race the people there.
I don’t know why it’s so difficult, but I can’t help myself from jumping to the front at the beginning of a race. It’s like my way of telling everyone that I am here to race! In fact, a lady who I will just refer to as “Rude Lady” started yelling at me because I was working too hard. I tried to express to her that I was fairly confident that 27 miles is unlikely to tire me out, but then she said, “you don’t look like you know what you are doing, are you new to road racing?” I wish I had the ability to say what I think, just can’t, but I so should have said, “yes, I am, I just took the training wheels off last night!”
Oddly enough, she took over the front and pulled into the wind for the next few miles. We turned onto a country road with some pretty gentle rollers. I looked up and saw that the one and only team that had three people represented looked back at me, saw that I was kind of blocked by having someone in front of me and someone to my left, and they attacked. I almost started laughing, I mean, here I am on my own (seemingly), and the three of them have to wait until they think I am blocked to attack, who wouldn’t love that much respect as a rider! Maybe the attack had nothing to do with me, but it sure seemed that way…
Fortunately, it was no problem to get out from where I was as the women by me were pretty inexperienced and didn’t hold their lines when I went to chase. I think it took maybe 10 seconds to chase them down, which is nothing new as I am chasing down the field in the crits after nearly every turn every Tuesday night for the last five weeks. I was actually doing the math, and I think that on the average Tuesday night crit, I do about 48 chases on the turns so the three I chased down on this race were not a big deal.
We then turned onto a road called Kennard, and it had the only noticeable hill on the course, and I attacked. I took the hill hard and finally broke the field apart a little bit, including dropping Rude Lady. This attack wasn’t nearly as successful as I thought it might be, but I was told that there was about a 20 yard gap between the two other women who went with me and the rest of the field. Unfortunately, one of them women in the break was part of the represented team, and she did her job, she slowed down the break so her team could catch up. I think it would have been better to sit in on the hill and attack at the top, but I am still learning.
The turn to Vandemark from Kennard was a downhill turn. I was second in line, and the woman in front of me took the turn pretty badly. Maybe I was more prepared for it after 14 technical downhill turns from the crit a few days before, but I nearly crashed trying to follow her line. It was about here where I started cooking up a strategy for the rest of the race. This road had a few rollers, and I pulled more than I probably should have, but I could see some red in the faces of the women doing most of the work, and I didn’t want the time they had off the front to be too easy.
With about 7 miles left, the team attacked the field once again. Unlike their first attack, this attack was slightly downhill or at least flat and had a tailwind so it was no problem to catch up. They were trying to take short fast pulls, but ultimately it failed. Having grabbed poptarts from a gas station for breakfast, I was worried I would come down from the sugar rush right as we approached the finish. Figuring it was as good a time as any, I ate half a thing of shot bloks.
If there had been an attack then, I probably would have struggled, especially given how congested I have been and how hard I found it to breath, eat, and ride at the same time. But, thankfully, planning to eat after a failed attack was good timing on my part.
As we approached the turn onto Branch, I purposefully took over the front. I took the turn fast to see what kind of gap I could generate. When I turned to look, it was sizeable, maybe five to ten yards. I then realized that the best strategy for the finish was to attack right before we turned off Branch then use the two technical turns at the end to create separation before the finish line. The finish line was close to the last turn so there wouldn’t be enough time for the less technical riders to outsprint us.
I would say that during the race, it was pretty friendly, I even called out the best place to take a sketchy set of rail road tracks, I then claimed it wasn’t out of niceness, but fear that someone else crashing would take me out, also true. Can’t be nice in road racing!
It was at this point that I turned to my incognito teammate to discuss strategy for the rest of the race. Since we both do the Tuesday night crits fairly regularly, I convinced her that those skills would be sufficient to take the win over the field of less technical riders. (Note: I think at least one of the riders in the group possibly has the skills, but she doesn’t like to use them) At no time during the race did I see any of the other women take a turn with any kind of speed. I was absolutely certain that we could capitalize on this apparent weakness.
About a quarter of a mile before when I wanted to attack, the one team leader who had probably spent the most time at the back of the line attacked. It seemed as though the team was protecting her so I was a little worried by how fresh she should have been, but my friend had already clued me in that she admits she isn’t a good sprinter. Rather than just chase her down, I opted to counter her attack and just never looked back. I decided if I couldn’t sprint for a little over a mile, I didn’t deserve to win. Off Branch, we turned to Liberty and were on that for probably half a mile, then a quick right on Vine followed by a quick left to the finish line. During that final stretch on Liberty, I was hurting, there was a stop light before the turn and the stretch between the stop light and the first of the two sharp turns was where I thought I was going to lose it, but I kept telling myself the pain wouldn’t last much longer. I needed speed to take into the turn in order to win.
At the final turn, I started sprinting for the line. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my friend come around me to take over the lead. Having worked to get here together, it didn’t matter to me who won, just that we took 1st & 2nd.
She later asked me why I let her have it, and I basically said that I was trying to show that I was true to my word. But, truth be told, I thought I could, but wasn’t sure I could outsprint her, and I didn’t see a reason in this race to test it. I was just super excited with the way I played this race. I mean, I pulled a bunch, I chased down the attacks, I kept the pace up, and I still could only be outsprinted by my friend who I protected and made sure was with me at the finish, all while burping up wine and on legs that were tired from a big effort the night before.
After the race, said Rude Lady came up and asked how I did. I think she fully expected to hear that I couldn’t keep up the pace and that I dropped. So, when I told her that we took 1st and 2nd, she was kind of surprised. She then asked how old we were because she was doing a masters race and wanted to make sure neither one of us is 50. HOLD THE PHONE GRANDMA!!!! Seriously, 50? Before the race, I was chatting with some of my long distance ladies, and they made a comment about how nice I am. Let’s say that this lady didn’t see my nice side.
Aside from having to wait at least 2 hours for the results, it was a fun way to start the Independence Day holiday!